“The Beast Men of Mongo” was the tenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally printed between April 25 and August 8, 1937, “The Beast Men of Mongo” picks up the storyline where the ninth installment, “The Tusk Men of Mongo” left off with Flash and Dale led by Captain Truno to Prince Barin’s kingdom. Truno explains that it is necessary for them to live in treetop homes because of the many dangers of the forest. They ride a vine-propelled elevator to an amazing network of highways that link the trees four hundred feet above ground to Prince Barin’s stunning snow-white castle.
Barin and Aura give Flash and Dale a royal welcome. Alex Raymond’s artwork is gorgeous in these panels. Aura still carries a torch for Flash and greets him with a passionate kiss that leaves Dale fuming. That night as Flash gazes out the window he spies an intruder entering Aura’s chamber via the balcony. Flash heroically swings down on a vine and surprises the intruder. The man surrenders Aura’s jewels and claims he was reduced to thieving because of his sickly wife. Flash takes pity on him and lets him go free. Aura emerges from her bed chamber and discovers Flash who returns her jewels and claims the thief escaped. Leaving Aura’s room, Flash is met by Dale who is suspicious when Flash claims he chased a thief away. The adult themes in this storyline (though tame by modern standards) were quite sophisticated for their day. Don Moore’s dialogue lets Raymond’s artwork tell the story for him. This was always true of their partnership, but the point is driven home even more when Raymond turns up the heat of sexual tension between Flash and Aura.
The next morning Flash recognizes Barin’s servant, Grombo as the thief he apprehended the night before. Flash and Dale breakfast with Barin and Aura. Ming’s daughter gushes over Flash’s heroism while Flash is embarrassed and Dale and Barin are both perturbed. Grombo fears that Flash will betray him as the thief and poisons Flash’s porridge. Dale catches him in the act and accuses him. Flash loses his temper and reveals to the others that Grombo was the thief. Barin plans to punish him by having him thrown four hundred feet to the ground (presumably their usual form of capital punishment), but Flash pleads that Grombo’s life be spared and so Barin agrees to life imprisonment instead.
Grombo swears his vengeance as he is taken away to prison. Having exposed the thief greatly relieves Dale’s misgivings about trusting Flash with Aura. The two spend several blissful days in Barin’s kingdom when Barin brings them the bad news that Grombo has broken out of prison and left behind a note stating he will get his revenge on all of them by contacting Emperor Ming and informing them that Barin and Aura are harboring Flash. Barin sends his scouts on a frantic search to find the escaped criminal in time.
Grombo sabotages the wooden bridge so that it collapses on his pursuers. Flash just manages to save Barin’s life, but several of Barin’s scouts perish in the fall. Grombo kills a sentry and is nearly caught by Flash and Barin who are close on his trail when he falls into the hands of the Beast Men, a race of horned primitive ape-men who are at war with the Tree-Men. Meantime, Dale resolves to join the search for Grombo against Truno’s wishes.
Grombo bargains with the Beast Men to let him lead the Tree-Men into a trap by acting as a decoy. Flash and Barin catch up with Grombo and walk right into the Beast Men’s ambush. Dale and Truno follow closely on their heels. Flash manages to escape, but Barin is captured by Grombo and the Beast Men. Flash is reunited with Dale and Truno and insists they set out immediately to rescue Barin rather than wait for reinforcements and risk losing their trail. As they set out they are attacked by vicious harpy bats while crossing a narrow bridge, but Flash and Truno successfully beat the creatures off.
Flash, Dale and Truno find the Beast Men’s treetop lair. Flash leads a daring nighttime raid to rescue Barin. Flash and Truno successfully lead the Beast Men into a trap using Grombo’s trick of sabotaging the bridge and plunging them to their death. Flash successfully rescues Barin, but Grombo escapes. Barin orders his men to fire flaming arrows into the trees to burn Grombo alive. Flash is angered by Barin’s cruel justice, but the final panel reveals that Grombo successfully escapes and is determined to reach Ming with news that Flash lives and of Barin’s betrayal.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). A sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu is due for publication in December 2011. Also forthcoming is a collection of short stories featuring an original Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke and an original hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com